“I thought a bomb went off”: Watertown man says his washing machine exploded mid-wash

Jeff Poulos picked up the twisted chunks of plastic and metal, pieces of what’s left from his mangled washing machine.

“The machine had somehow exploded,” Poulos said. “I’m lucky I wasn’t down here. We’re lucky we don’t have kids that are down here. Somebody could have gotten [hurt] by the flying pieces.”

Poulos said he purchased the machine, a Maytag front-loader, in 2014. In eight years, he said he never had any problem until late July when Poulos was running a wash in his basement.

“All of a sudden I heard a loud thud. It sounded like a heavy package being delivered on my front porch, so I thought nothing of it,” Poulos said. “There were pieces that had somehow flown out of the machine onto the floor,” Poulos said. “Some of [the clothes] were shredded, some were stuck down there. Some of the pieces I couldn’t even get to.”

Boston 25′s sister stations, WSOC in Charlotte and WFTV in Orlando, reported on similar washing machine “explosions” in Sept. 2018 and Oct. 2019. A St. Cloud, Florida woman said she found her six-year-old Maytag front-load washer blown apart.

“I thought a bomb had gone off in the house, Thelma Chattey told WFTV in 2019. “I don’t even want to think about what could have happened…Every time I pass by it and look at it, I get angrier.”

It’s unclear how often Maytag machines pose this kind of risk, but consumer complaints involving “exploding” washers go back years, according to records filed with the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Maytag issued a recall of about 5,000 front-load washing machines in 2005 because “the spinner could malfunction and break apart” if the washer was used at its maximum load capacity.

One customer reported a three-year-old top-load Maytag washing machine exploded during a spin cycle in Nov. 2020. Another reported a front-load washing burst open and left a hole in their ceiling in Feb. 2022.

“Thank God my kids were[n’t] around at the time,” the consumer wrote.

In 2019, a consumer said their Maytag washer “went out of control causing blow-out of plastic panels” to fly off and hit walls. The unit only stopped when the power was shut down, they reported.

Another customer warned the CPSC about the Maytag machines in 2017, “…if a machine is unbalanced on the spin cycle, it will violently vibrate and shake. I believe the machine would shake itself apart if left unattended. It appears there is no shut-off when the load is unbalanced.”

In all of these CPSC complaints, the sections labeled “comments from the Manufacturer/Private Labeler” were left blank. A Whirlpool Corporation spokesperson told Boston 25 they collected Poulos’s washer and are investigating the cause.

“Although we are still analyzing the product and cannot speculate about what happened with this particular product, Whirlpool is committed to delivering safe, innovative products to consumers,” the company said in an email.

Poulos believes a counterbalance weight inside the machine may have come loose and caused the damage. He said Whirlpool compensated him for the washer and his damaged clothes.

“I noticed the cement block was loose and when I moved the machine the block actually fell. The block is not supposed to be loose,” Poulos said. “It seemed to me a logical explanation is that somehow that block caused the damage.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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